Like a lot of cops out there, most of the people I consider to be close friends also wear a uniform like mine. The shared experiences, especially those that are particularly hair-raising or simply shitty, tend to form bonds that run very deep. I have plenty of folks that I consider friends or acquaintances that aren’t in law enforcement, but sometimes they just have a difficult time wrapping their brains around the intricacies that come with my career.
A majority of those folks that I have allowed to enter at least the outer level of my “circle of trust” tend to be more than a little surprised to learn that there’s a very small chance that they’ve ever had an interaction with me when I was not armed with a pistol. My pistol is an expected presence when I’m in uniform. Most people understand why a uniformed policeman would have a pistol on his hip. Some are comfortable with the idea, and others, even those who are law abiding, seem to be terrified of it.
While in uniform I’ve had several people approach me to ask if my pistol was loaded. It always takes me aback to receive a question like that because it seems so counter-intuitive. It’s simply a misunderstanding from folks with no knowledge of firearms. This is bolstered by nearly every Hollywood movie in which some salt-dog issues a command to “lock and load” and the pistol is loaded after the slide gets pulled in dramatic fashion.
Given that the question is asked, the obviously gun-uneducated person soon receives a polite and in-depth explanation of why my weapon is loaded. I explain the safety systems in place to prevent it from suddenly morphing into a rabid, self-deploying metal and plastic demon. I explain that in the absence of a chambered pew stick, my pew provider will do nothing once my booger hook hits the bang switch. I usually conclude the conversation with adults by asking them to imagine that someone was trying to take their life, or the lives of their loved ones. I then ask them if they’d prefer that I respond with a loaded weapon, or if they would rather me stop to load it before I was able to help. I’ve never had anyone who wanted me to take any extra time.
Not every person is fond of guns. Not every person should carry a gun. I fully support those who do decide to carry a pistol for personal protection. I encourage people who have an interest in defending themselves or their family to get training and experience with a firearm so they can do so in a safe manner.
Personally, I do not leave my house without a pistol. Those who are not in law enforcement may accuse me of being paranoid. That’s fine. They wouldn’t call a mechanic who keeps tools nearby paranoid. An EMT who carries a medical kit wouldn’t be considered paranoid. A firefighter with a fire extinguisher close at hand isn’t paranoid. It’s simply a matter of being prepared. Prepared to handle issues that you are trained to address.
A pistol is a tool that I have at my disposal at work. It may be used to keep someone I’ve never met before safe, or it may be used to defend my own life. It’s a damn shame that some of our nation’s law enforcement officers do not carry a firearm while they are off duty. The fact of the matter is that in this day and age we need all of the help we can get to keep safe. Federal law supports off duty law enforcement officer carry, even if you’re in an area that is supposedly “gun free”, aka “target rich” (except for NFL games, of course).
Whatever area that I am occupying at the time will be safer because of it. I would not be able to live with myself if I did not have the ability to intervene if some fanatical idiot started laying waste to innocent people and I was unarmed. If that means that I have to continue to buy blue jeans that are 2″ bigger than my waist to accommodate my inside the waistband holster and pistol, so be it.
Like it or not, off duty doesn’t mean shut down. If I’m out of my house, I’ll be prepared. Will you?
Time to go patrol the Donut…